Settling for Beauty’s Cold Comfort


“A saturation of glorious signs bathing in the light of their absent
explanation.” This line from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1996 meditation on
political and aesthetic non-intervention teasingly describes the
experience of the director’s late-period work—intricately crafted,
visually masterful films that leave the interpretive heavy lifting to
the viewer. For Ever Mozart is a virtual litany of the
director’s cinematic signatures: bold primary colors, jagged shards of
music, rapid-fire quotations, gunshot sounds, multilingual dialogue,
waves breaking on the beach, riffs on previous Godard films, melancholy
ruminations on history-bound Europe. The second and longest of the four
loosely connected sections follows a group of French actors—including
the fictional granddaughter of Albert Camus—on a quixotic quest to
stage Alfred de Musset’s One Must Not Play at Love in war-torn
Sarajevo. Their absurd failure opens up troubling questions about the
ethics of artistic engagement that reverberate for the duration—a key
moment finds a film crew using its shoot’s elegant costumes to cover a
pair of corpses. The purposefully shoddy staging of war and atrocity
co-exists uneasily with bits of lyrical abstraction, as when a spasm of
crude violence ends with the camera lingering on a shot of a dead
woman’s foot protruding from the dirt. Profoundly pessimistic,
For Ever Mozart evinces little faith in design or intelligence,
settling in its cryptic final scene for the cold comfort of beauty.

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